We haven`t given up, says New Zealand coach
Wellington: New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert on Tuesday insisted his team`s World Cup intercontinental play-off against Mexico was not over, despite trailing 5-1 after the first leg,
Herbert, known for his dour defensive tactics, said the All Whites would take a positive mindset into Wednesday`s return leg in Wellington and chase the 4-0 scoreline needed to progress to Brazil.
The 52-year-old has faced calls to step down after last week`s mauling at Mexico City`s Azteca Stadium, which has been dubbed "The Ricki Horror Show" in New Zealand media.
But the former All Whites centre-back was upbeat on the eve of what could be his last game in charge, joking that he was going to once again lace up his boots and make a dramatic comeback to marshal the defence.
Herbert said New Zealand, already written off by most pundits, were under no pressure going into the match and he wanted his players to go out "with smiles on their faces" and attack Mexico looking for an upset.
"Isn`t that the beauty of sport around the world?" he said. "The anticipation, the excitement, the belief, the uncertainty.
"Who knows what tomorrow night might bring? The doom and gloom some people have wanted to paint is not with us. We`ll be up for this and we`ll certainly be giving it the best we can."
Captain Tommy Smith also believed the 79th-ranked New Zealanders could mount an unlikely comeback against Mexico, a footballing powerhouse that has played in 14 of the last 19 World Cups.
"We have to believe we can win this," he said. "I believe we`ve got the attributes to do that."
Herbert will not name his team until Wednesday morning but it is expected to include VfB Stuttgart`s Marco Rojas and Perth Glory`s Shane Smeltz, the attack-minded duo who were left on the bench at the Azteca.
Fullbacks Storm Roux and Bill Tuiloma are also tipped to make their international debuts as Herbert looks to inject some vigour into a defence that was tentative and squandered possession in the first leg.
"We`re back home, we`ve got a good crowd and we`re looking for a good positive performance out there," he said.
While Herbert`s contract expires at the end of the World Cup campaign, he refused to speculate on his future.
"We`ll see, that certainly hasn`t been agreed yet, by any stretch," he said.